Blog: Mahendra Ramsinghani

Mahendra Ramsinghani, our guest blogger this week asks: "By attracting a few entrepreneurs, a lot of economic challenges could be addressed. But could a bumper sticker attract the right entrepreneurs?" Read his final post to learn the answer.

Ramsinghani is with Plymouth Venture Partners in Ann Arbor. Check back here weekdays for more posts.

Post No. 4

Welcome to Michigan, now start a company…

I recently read a bumper sticker which commanded, “Welcome to America….now speak English.” Whoever came up with idea was probably tired of bad accents. I am glad the Immigration and Naturalization Service does not have such signs at the entry points of the country. But if we extend the idea to attracting entrepreneurs to Michigan, what would the tag line be?

I have noticed a very interesting trend where entrepreneurs who have built successful companies on the coasts are returning back to Michigan to repeat the economic successes.

Take for example, Doug Neal who spent several years on the West coast, built a successful venture backed company, survived various ups and downs and eventually had a nice exit. Now, Doug has moved to Brighton and is using his expertise to help build start-ups in Michigan. His family ties brought him back to Michigan.

Bob Poloskey and Tom Bollum built a successful company in California which raised over $30mm of venture capital. The company was sold within four years and Bob and Tom brought back their expertise (and wealth, thank you very much) to Michigan, where they became a part of Osiris Innovations. Osiris is based in Auburn Hills & is focused on sales of cutting edge supplier management software. With marquee customers like Office Depot, TRW and Detroit Medical Centers, Bob & Tom are well on their way to replicate the success, this time in Michigan.

Sreeram Veeragandham was the founding member of Juniper Networks, now a public company with $10 billion market capitalization. Sreeram was a part of the team that helped develop and re-tool the initial product line that led Juniper to eventually grow and compete with the likes of CISCO. Sreeram came to Michigan to get his MBA at the University of Michigan and decided to stay. He worked tirelessly to build Accuri Cytometers, an Ann Arbor based University of Michigan spin-off that is selling research instruments. Sreeram also invested capital and helped raise initial rounds of funding for Accuri. Sreeram now spends time with Plymouth Ventures to help build Michigan companies.

So how can the State of Michigan attract more of the ilk… entrepreneurs are unique beasts who are highly independent. Charlie Rothstein, founder of Beringea, one of the successful venture funds in Michigan shared a brilliant idea: “Destination Michigan” where any entrepreneur in any part of the country who can raise the first million of venture capital would get a matching investment from state programs. A simple elegant idea which can attract entrepreneurs, start-ups and investments to Michigan – all without any tax incentives. You can spot a good idea whose time has not yet come… hopefully we will see this get launched sometime soon. Till then, some bumper stickers maybe?

Mahendra Ramsinghani is with Plymouth Venture Partners, an “all immigrant” venture firm with an Australian (Ian Bund) and two Indians (Mahendra & Sreeram) working hard to build Michigan’s economy. Thank God, at least two of the three speak English well.